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Theatre Review (LA): Peace by Aristophanes and John Glore at the Getty Villa Outdoor Amphitheatre

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Art can make strange bedfellows. On the surface, Culture Clash, the three-man Latino agitprop theatre group, and the staid and stately Getty Villa in Malibu couldn't be stranger. Their collaboration on Aristophanes' wildest and dirtiest play, Peace, is perhaps the best of the Getty's collaborations yet.

In reality it's not the Getty per se that is collaborating, but rather Aristophanes and Culture Clash with the addition of two luminaries of the LA theatre scene, John Fleck and Amy Hill. Aristophanes loved to mix things up, and his plays were ancient forms of agitprop theatre in which he satirized and pilloried the society of his day. Well, that is what Culture Clash has done since its inception in 1984. Originally covering subjects of interest to the Latino community, over the years they have become rather legit, appearing at such institutions as the Marc Taper Forum, South Coast Repertory, Lincoln Center, La Jolla Playhouse, etc., and now the main stage of the Getty or the magnificent outdoor Greco-Roman Amphitheatre. (They had earlier performed The Birds by Aristophanes in the Getty Villa Theatre Lab.)

The result is total madcap anarchy, without really straying too far from the original story but adding sufficient contemporary and Latino references to make the show theirs. The three remaining members are the group, Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas, and Herbert Siquenza (they were once eight) are funnier than ever, rising to the challenge presented by the Getty and Aristophanes. With the help of translator and co-conspirator John Glore; director, Oregon Shakespeare Artistic director Bill Rauch; the multi-talented designer Ken Roht as assistant director and choreographer; and two brave and very funny actors, John Fleck and Amy Hill, they have made Aristophanes as fresh and as "today" as I have ever seen.

The story is simple. The God of War has kidnapped the God of Peace and it remains for the actors to free her so peace can break out. Along the way there are penis jokes, farts, assaults on the audience (in good fun), and some wonderful characterizations. Amy Hill is hilarious as a matron from Brentwood Hills who has come to protest the noise but is caught up in the action. John Fleck plays Trygaeus (known as Ty Dye), a hugely endowed patriot who wants to rescue Peace. The guys in Culture Clash assume several identities throughout the evening, all outrageous.

Rounding out the creative group is that marvelous costume designer Shigeru Yaji, scenic designer Christopher Acebo, lighting designer Geoff Korf, and puppet designer Lynn Jeffries. There is also an on-stage mariachi band called Las Colibri, consisting of Suzanne Garcia, Mary Alfaro, and Vaneza Calderon.

Peace plays at the Getty Villa until Oct 3rd. Go!

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